Virginia skill games, also known as gray machines, are under scrutiny once again.
This time a lawsuit has been filed against the company behind the almost-slot-machine games, the Queen of Virginia. The suit alleges that it improperly used the likeness of deceased State Senator Yvonne B. Miller to further its cause.
Skill games are already the subject of an existing legal case.
In 2020, then Governor Ralph Northam signed a law allowing the games in Virginia. And it also allowed the state to tax the revenue, which has produced an estimated $130 million. It was thought to be a temporary measure to help deal with the fiscal realities of COVID-19.
The law expired in July 2021 and the games were turned off. A judge then suspended the ban in December after a lawsuit was filed by business owners who felt the games were vital to their interests. That injunction lasts, and the games have spread, until the case is heard again on May 18.
In the meantime, the Queen of Virginia is fighting another claim.
A flyer, a scholarship and an accusation
Miller is the first black woman to serve in both chambers of the General Assembly. She worked in the House of Delegates from 1984 to 1988 and then the State Senate from 1988 until she died in 2021.
According to the Virginia Mercury, her estate is seeking $1.35 million in damages against businesses connected to the Queen of Virginia.
They claim that a flyer passed around the General Assembly used Miller’s picture — and that of deceased Senator Ben Chafin –without permission to promote a scholarship for residents from low-income areas to attend colleges.
The hook? That the revenue for the scholarship comes from tax revenue gleaned from skill games.
The flyer does not indicate anywhere who is behind the scholarship fund. But the estate has a witness saying when they asked to contribute they were directed to the Queen of Virginia. Attorneys representing David J. Bond, the administrator of Miller’s estate wrote:
“The defendants jointly published Sen. Miller’s name, photograph and likeness on the flyer to demonstrate and bolster their political credibility to obtain support from the Virginia legislature and to entice the public at large to purchase their gambling services.”
Taking a gander at the flyer
The full-color flyer says it’s announcing a scholarship in the name of Miller and Chafin seeking to honor the “legislative legends” from separate sides of the political aisle.
It says the scholarship would be for students with incomes below the federal poverty line. And that it would pay for all academic and living expenses. It would be the first program of its kind in America.
The flyer says that continuing to collect skill game tax revenue for another year could help up to 10,000 Virginia students pursue degrees at community colleges.
“Skill game revenue is the difference between hope and failure during the pandemic for the owners of thousands of family-run small businesses.”
There is no fine print showing who will run the scholarship fund or even any contact information. The company never created a scholarship fund.
What’s a skill game?
Pace-O-Matic is a Georgia-based company behind the Queen of Virginia games. Virginia gamblers can find these games in sports bars and convenience stores throughout Virginia.
It plays just like a slot machine, but players have the ability after a spin to manipulate the symbols to create a new winning pattern to win more money.
The Mercury reported that a Pace-O-Matic spokesman said it was premature to comment at this time on the Miller lawsuit.